Clarifying the Relation Between Spirituality and Well-Being

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Koenig (J Nerv Ment Dis 196:349–355, 2008) and others have asserted that measures of spirituality used to investigate its association with health seem to present a misleading picture of the relationship because of evidence suggesting that spirituality has become conceptually confounded with well-being. To evaluate this claim, the present study used a sample of 247 university students to explore the relation of a multidimensional model of spirituality with several different forms of well-being and the association of both with a two-factor model of social desirability. Correlational and regression analyses revealed that, although there is some evidence of an association, it is generally of low effect size and seems to differ as a function of how spirituality is defined. More importantly, however, there was the finding that existential well-being, a concept often incorporated into definitions of spirituality and a part of the measurement model used in this study, is virtually uncorrelated with explicitly spiritual and religious variables but shows a pattern of association with measures of well-being and social desirability, which suggests that it would be better conceptualized as a form of well-being and not spirituality. The article concludes with a discussion of the meaning of the findings for understanding the spirituality-health literature and suggestions for future research.

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